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An Essay on the Claims of Strong Artificial Intelligence

An Essay on the Claims of Strong Artificial Intelligence

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Published by Stefan Hendrickx
The goal of this paper is (1) to try to find out the reasons why so many people are confused and reluctant about the claims of strong AI. And (2) we will look at the clever, however erroneous, counter arguments some philosophers have come up with. Perhaps surprisingly, evidence for the origin of their misconception of “thinking machines” seems to be present in philosophy itself. Furthermore, suggestions will be made in which way the claims of strong AI are realistic, making use of the concepts presented in complexity theory.
The goal of this paper is (1) to try to find out the reasons why so many people are confused and reluctant about the claims of strong AI. And (2) we will look at the clever, however erroneous, counter arguments some philosophers have come up with. Perhaps surprisingly, evidence for the origin of their misconception of “thinking machines” seems to be present in philosophy itself. Furthermore, suggestions will be made in which way the claims of strong AI are realistic, making use of the concepts presented in complexity theory.

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Published by: Stefan Hendrickx on Mar 19, 2011
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Computational and modular approaches in Cognitive Science
Master of Artificial Intelligence, K.U. Leuven 1999-2000
Believe it or notAn essay on the claims of strong AI
Author: Stefan Hendrickx, December 1999
1. Abstract12. Disillusionment23. Ambiguity24. The “end” of Meta narratives35. Strong AI: a consistent Meta narrative46. Convergence by emergence47. Self-organizing systems and strong AI58. Conclusion69. Literature710. References8
1. Abstract
The attempt of this paper is on the one hand, to try to find out the reasons why so many peopleare confused and reluctant about the claims of strong AI. On the other hand, we will look at the clever,however erroneous, counter arguments some philosophers have come up with. Perhaps surprisingly,evidence for the origin of their misconception of “thinking machines” seems to be present in philosophyitself. Furthermore, suggestions will be made in which way the claims of strong AI are realistic, makinguse of the concepts presented in complexity theory.
______________________________________________________________________________________________ Stefan HendrickxDec 1999 
 
 
2. Disillusionment
Ever since its “origin”, let’s say Renaissance period, modern science has developed an insultingattitude towards man’s beliefs. In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus moved us from the center of the universeto the periphery with his book “
De Revolutionibus orbium coelestium
”. Another crucial moment of disillusionment was in 1859, when Charles Darwin published his most controversial book "
On the Originof the Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life
". The idea of survival of the fittest and, even worse, our descent from the ape didn’t really matchwith the story of Creation. At this moment, the great indignation people have towards the claims of strongAI is very similar: a scientific theory dramatically upsets their intuitive self-image. Darwin left at least theillusion of people possessing unique mental capacities.What is it that strong AI exactly claims? John Searle describes it in his paper “
Minds, brains, and programs
” as follows:
According to strong AI, the computer is not merely a tool in the study of the mind: rather, theappropriately programmed computer really is a mind, in the sense that computers given the right programs can be literally said to understand and have other cognitive states. In strong AI, becausethe programmed computer has cognitive states, the programs are not mere tools that enable us to test psychological explanations: rather, the programs are themselves the explanations.
3. Ambiguity
Searle’s counter argument to the claims of strong AI can be stated to be a typical classicalphilosopher’s answer to a scientific problem. To begin with, essential terms in his paper (causality,intentionality, mental states,) are not properly, if at all, defined. Starting from weak foundations,Searle builds up a reasoning, not taking into account any empirical, in this context to be interpretedas measurable or formally provable, evidence, since most philosophers do not really believe in theempirical. An exception to this generalisation is, of course, the school of the empiricists, whose theoriesare identified with the concept of science itself. The kind of brick Searle uses for his building, because heis a philosopher, is natural language.Here lies a fundamental problem of philosophy (and also of non experimental psychology). Therelationship of natural language and reality is namely one to many. In other words, the ambiguity of our natural way of communicating is one of the worst kinds. It is generally accepted that evolution has comeup with natural language in order to have us referring, representing, and communicating our world in aclever, though, and also therefore, simplified way. It makes abstraction of details that are irrelevant, and
______________________________________________________________________________________________ Stefan HendrickxDec 1999 
 
most often, not understood. It is a projection of reality, which differs from person to person, and withinone person from one moment to another.This has to be understood as bad news for the ambitions of classical philosophy, and metaphysicsin particular. The lack of appropriate tools and concepts to utter a clear and objective statementabout reality cannot be overcome. This acute problem has also resulted in the existence of as manyphilosophical theories as philosophers, and few of their theories being compatible.
4. The “end” of Meta narratives
Poststructuralism
1
and especially postmodernism
2
in philosophy have understood this problemfully. Jean-Françoise Lyotard: "
I define postmodernism as incredulity toward meta narratives
"
3
. JamesBerlin
4
notes that Lyotard "
renounces the totalizing discourse of such schemes as Hegelianism or Marxism or the faith in scientific progress or the invisible hand of economic law. All are declared language games that are inherently partial and interested, intended to endorse particular relations of power and to privilege certain groups in historical struggles
”.
1
Poststructuralism with people like Derrida, Lacan, and Foucault, heavily reacted against the insistenceof classical Western philosophy on looking for the ultimate Truth. Derrida deconstructed languageand Western philosophy with his theory of signifiers and signifieds. Lacan de-centered the source of knowledge and assumptions of Western thought by destabilizing self. Foucault deconstructed systemsof social thought, for which he used the metaphor of prisons and the panopticon. It is noteworthy that itwasn’t a centralized power, such as a state, which controlled people in his metaphor, but people are saidto control each other in “power networks”. With this claim, Foucault probably referred to the inflexible,conservative, and controlling attitudes people show in all kinds of social systems, such as cultures,villages, or scientific communities. People are giving up their own identity, their self, in order to beaccepted in the social network. This relates to sociology, more precisely the paper 
The Established and the Outsiders
by N. Elias and J. Scotson.
2
Jean-François Lyotard formulated in
The Postmodern Condition (La Condition Postmoderne)
(1979)a number of critiques on modernism. The term postmodern, which he introduced, corresponds with asynthesis of critiques on modernism as formulated by poststructuralists Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, andBaudrillard, as well as critiques of Heidegger and Nietzsche, who have tried their own way of refuting therelevance of the metaphysical concepts.
3
Jean-François Lyotard,
The Postmodern Condition
, p. xxiv
4
Berlin, James A.
Postmodernism, Cultural Studies, and the Composition Classroom: PostmodernTheory in Practice,
Rhetoric Review, 11.1, 1992
______________________________________________________________________________________________ Stefan HendrickxDec 1999 

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